Manika and desai buck the trend

Published: 01st October 2016 11:05 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2016 12:23 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Before the Central Zone Championships began, Manika Batra and Harmeet Desai had less than stellar domestic records this season. Both lost in the North Zone semifinals and Inter-Institutional pre-quarterfinals. The trend was bucked in Indore recently as they annexed the Central crown in contrasting fashion. Manika survived Madhurika Patkar 4-3, while Desai crushed Subhajit Saha 4-0.
Desai endured a not-so-fine eight months since winning the East Zone last year and missed out on qualifying for the Olympics. Speaking to The Sunday Standard, he stated he hadn’t been able to adapt to the new balls quickly, which made him less confident.
“The ball change took me a while to get used to. Plus, a few losses to lower-ranked players made me rethink my mental preparation. Instead of getting weighed down by the ‘favourite’ tag, I learnt to block it out completely,” Desai said.
Manika, on the other hand, was in a much better place than Desai. She won the 2015 senior nationals and made her Olympic debut. “I gave 100 per cent at the Rio Olympics, but wasn’t able to win the first round. Nonetheless, it gave me the confidence to reach the quarterfinals in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria Opens... even this title,” she opined.
Next on Desai’s plate are the West and South Zones and, then, he’ll go to Portugal for training. The Sweden and Austria Opens are the upcoming international events he’s targeting. Manika, however, is looking to concentrate on the remaining three zonal events for the moment.
There’s another change on the horizon. After two years, a foreign coach has once again been brought into the mix by the Table Tennis Federation of India. Italy’s Massimo Constantini, also India coach in 2009-10, has been rehired for a two-year period starting October 1. What does the duo think of him?
“My first senior national camp in 2009 was under him and I was ranked 22nd domestically. The following year, I jumped to third or fourth. I believe his experience can greatly benefit all of us,” Desai insisted. “I’m just looking forward to the national camp. Hopefully, I’ll learn a lot in the process,” Manika chimed in.

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